Council Approves Negotiating Mandate for New EU Law on Liability for Defective Products
The Council of the European Union has taken a significant step towards modernizing the EU's laws on liability for defective products. The ambassadors of EU member states have agreed on the Council's negotiating mandate for a new EU law that will update the existing civil liability rules to better align with the digital age and circular economy. The proposed law expands the definition of "product" to include digital manufacturing files and software, considering the increasing technical complexity of many products. It also ensures access to relevant evidence for injured individuals seeking compensation and holds liable the party responsible for substantial modifications to a product.
The new liability directive aims to enhance consumer protection and provide a stable legal framework for businesses. It addresses the challenges posed by the digital economy by including digital products within the scope of liability rules. Additionally, in a circular economy where products are designed to be more durable and sustainable, the directive clarifies that substantial modifications to a product make it a new product, with the responsible party being held liable. Furthermore, as consumers increasingly purchase products from non-EU manufacturers, the directive guarantees the same level of protection against defective products from both EU and non-EU manufacturers.
The negotiating mandate also introduces changes to the expiry period for compensation claims and eases the burden of proof for consumers in complex cases. The entitlement to compensation now expires after 10 years from the product's placement on the market, extending to 20 years in cases where symptoms of personal injury take longer to emerge. The directive aims to ensure fairness in complex cases by simplifying the presumptions applicable to claimants faced with technical or scientific difficulties.
The Council's negotiating position will now serve as a basis for discussions with the European Parliament, which will adopt its own position on the matter. Once both institutions reach an agreement, a final legal text will be established, bringing the EU's product liability rules up to date with the current digital and circular economy landscape.